It's no secret that South Dakota's state bird brings in revenue, jobs, and recognition. The state estimates pheasant hunting brings nearly $250 million here each year. In order to protect the land these birds call home, Pheasants Forever is setting up its first South Dakota-based regional headquarters in Brookings.
With over 30 years of experience, Pheasants Forever plans to work with local farmers, landowners, and wildlife offices on habitat improvement for the birds.
"Their goals mesh very well with the goals of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, so we'll just accelerate our focus on putting conservation and habitat on the land through South Dakota," US Fish and Wildlife Services Private Lands Coordinator Kurt Forman said.
Pheasants thrive in South Dakota because of the region's unique mix of grasslands, wetlands and croplands. Unfortunately, in the past few years, there has been a decrease in the area of available grassland.
Farmers growing more crops means less habitat for nesting, and that has led to a drop in bird numbers.
"If you look at any farm or ranch here in South Dakota, there's room for wildlife habitat as part of their operation," Pheasants Forever Regional Office Director Dave Nomsen said.
That's something Pheasants Forever is hoping to convince more farmers of.
"If that farmer cares about soil and water quality, he's already addressing those issues through conservation plans. Wildlife habitat can be a big part of those plans as well," Nomsen said.
Working together with landowners, Nomsen hopes to uphold the strong tradition of pheasant hunting in the state.
Pheasants Forever has 32 chapters and 6,000 members statewide. These volunteers hold banquets and other events to raise funds for conservation projects.